Case against Dublin man John Gilligan dismissed
The case against a Dublin man arrested with over 20,000 euros (£17,270) in cash at Belfast International Airport has been dismissed.
John Gilligan, 67, from Greenforth Crescent, was stopped last year with the money in his baggage ahead of a flight to Alicante in Spain.
Prosecutors argued he intended to buy a prescription drug in Spain to sell on the Irish drugs black market.
He was charged with possession of and attempting to remove criminal property.
A defence barrister said it was a tenuous case based around a small piece of cardboard found in his possession with the name "Zopiclone" on it.
"The authorities in my respectful submission, have started off with a theory," he said.
"They posit a theory and that theory is dismissed in categorical terms by my client and after that it is tumbleweed."
'Cash in bundles'
Coleraine Magistrates' Court was told the cash was contained in two bundles and wrapped using clear tape.
Mr Gilligan said the money was intended to be used to rent a property in Spain and had been donated by relatives.
He had a piece of paper with the name of the drug printed on it, but said it was for his personal use, and followed pain near his ribs as a result of bullet wounds.
A black diary had been found in his possession with a torn-off part of a packet for the prescription sleeping drug.
He was questioned about the anti-insomnia prescribed medication Zopiclone, which investigators said was "prevalent" in the Irish drugs market.
The defendant had denied planning to smuggle Zopiclone from Spain into Ireland, where it commanded a higher price on the streets, a prosecution barrister said.
Prosecutors disclosed a series of flights taken by Mr Gilligan departing from Belfast for Spain, but returning to Dublin.
They were booked at short notice and the court was told the reason he used Belfast was because he would be less recognisable there than in the Republic.
Expert witnesses read to the court from the National Crime Agency (NCA) said it had investigated two cases where Zopiclone was imported through Belfast.
A statement from Irish police read to the court said the tablets were available in a chemist for as little as eight euros for 28.
On the street, where the substance is known as Zimma, they can be sold for two euros per tablet, creating a significant profit margin.
A magistrate dismissed the case and said suspicion was insufficient to warrant a conviction in criminal courts.
Mr Gilligan left without comment.